Hardcover, 169 pages
Soho Press, July 1, 2003 (first published January 1, 1973)
I initially chose this book to host for my book club with more than a little trepidation. While I love a good horror story, especially the tale of "creeping dread" you expect from Alfred Hitchcock or Shirley Jackson, it's not everyone's cup of tea. Frequently just saying a book is "horror" is enough to send potential readers running. This book, however, provided some interesting discussion about whether Amanda was suffering from some sort of supernatural possession or if she was having a mental breakdown. While it still may not be for everyone, if you're choosing a book for a club with somewhat eclectic taste, this could be a great option that's just a bit off the beaten path.
"What we think is impossible happens all the time."
It starts with a simple tapping in the apartment, explained away as a drippy pipe, or perhaps a mouse. An urge to start smoking again and more frequent bickering with her husband. Amanda, a successful young architect, feels a vague sense of unease at the changes in her life. As time passes, Amanda refuses to accept the improbable cause for these changes, with horrifying results.
At 169 pages, it's a short book, and Gran's writing is so clean and succinct that it feels even faster. The sparse writing creates a break-neck pace that causes a sense of panic for the reader, who cannot stop racing toward the same terrifying end as the protagonist. The ambiguity in the story is one of the novel's best qualities and is what draws the reader in. Is the overshadowing of Amanda's will and her seduction the result of insanity or something more supernatural - and does it matter? The terror Amanda feels is palpable and Gran easily transfers this terror to the reader through prose that is both subtle and hypnotizing.
This is a truly horrifying story that is not about cheap scares and gory scenes, but rather a literary approach to an easily dismissed and often unappreciated genre.